This post is part of an ongoing interview with author Mark John Isola about his forthcoming book Inky Flesh, so check back for more questions. Once posted, a link following the current Q&A will allow you to click through to read the next question–or begin reading from the first question: Why the title Inky Flesh? Quotes that are reasonably sized and maintain the context of the discussion are permitted for review, interview, academic, and blogging purposes—a link to the web page quoted will help maintain context.
Here is the next question:
Cal: How does the theme of rejection work in your stories?
MJ: Rejection can prompt different things in a person’s life. While it can take lives, it may also be understood through the Christian sense of “dying to the self.” Simply put, the old self dies before a new one begins. Some might call this rebirth. Here, a person takes up their personal cross as they embark on a new and higher level journey. So, rejection can prompt resurrection, or as I prefer to think about it, reincarnation.
This helps explain why the superhero story often feels just one step away from being a gay narrative. It’s this tension not the tights.
What I am talking about is close to Joyce’s sense of an epiphany, which also moves out from a spiritual model. Epiphany often features in short fiction. This transformative potential explains my preference for writing short stories to get at these themes.
Rejection is, we need to keep in mind, a serious consideration, especially for gay adolescents, who are much more likely to attempt suicide than their hetero-peers. Suicide remains a leading cause of death for gay and lesbian youth. This speaks to the durability of the gay diaspora even in the era of gay marriage.
Being yourself in a culture that disapproves of one’s sexual truth has never been easy nor safe, and this remains true.
As it goes, death and rebirth are generally significant themes that have been very productive for telling stories. Joseph Campbell has brilliantly discussed both as central components of the hero’s journey. These merely take on particular resonance within the GLBT experience. This is the gay bildungsroman. This is why rejection and reincarnation often appear in my short stories.